ATV Ride: Malarrimo Madness - Baja California Sur
copyright 2002 Roy Baldwin all rights reserved
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PREFACE It’s that time of year again. Whenever the Christmas decorations start to come out, the Bad Boys of East Cape start to get restless in anticipation of our annual quad trip. This year will be our most ambitious adventure yet, with a 9-10 day excursion from La Purisima to Punta Eugenia and back, a round trip of nearly 1,000 miles. We’ll be leaving on Dec. 3rd, and returning on the 11th or 12th.
PLANNING It’s now Nov. 26th, and we’re having our last pre-ride organizational meeting at Les’ home. In deference to everyone’s desire to remain anonymous, we’ll continue to use first names only. We’ve got 8 riders, myself, Jerry, Greg, Ron, Don, Bob, Les & Cliff, with D.C. and Mike in the chase truck. Additionally, Troy is in San Diego, and plans to drive down and meet us at Campo Rene, on the Pacific coast. Here’s the planned ride –
We’ll spend 2 nights at Campo Rene and Bahia Tortugas, providing us an opportunity for some side trips to investigate the area. We’re all looking forward to spending time at Malarrimo, famous as the resting spot for the flotsam of the entire North Pacific. If we find any interesting goodies on the beach there, we might extend the trip by an extra day to thoroughly scour the area. During the meeting an interesting local development comes up for discussion. Apparently a number of the local gringas disapprove of our debaucherous behavior on these trips, and have nicknamed us not the "Bad Boys", but the "Lost Boys". Way off base!, but having a sufficiently notorious reputation to deserve a nickname has made our day – thanks girls! As usual I’ll be bringing all my James Bond toys, handlebar-mounted GPS, satellite phone, mini digital cameras, and my favorite, a Toshiba Libretto computer, about the size of a paperback book. The computer and sat-phone have a data link, so I can not only make phone calls from anywhere in the world, but I can also access the internet and check my email from the middle of the Viscaino Desert. All of these gadgets weigh only a few pounds and easily fit in my backpack. Isn’t technology great! It’s now Monday the 2nd, and we’re 24 hours to zero hour. The weather forecast is a bit ominous, with rain predicted for tomorrow. For our trip last year, The Weather Channel had forecast snow for Cabo San Lucas, so we don’t put a lot of credence in the dire forecast. It’s nearly two in the afternoon, and I’ve spent the whole day taking care of loose ends at the office, when the evil specter of Murphy’s Law pays me a visit. Just as I’m closing my briefcase to head for home and complete packing, some inspectors from the Federal Department of Tourism out of Mexico City walk in. They want to see copies of our liability insurance papers, and they won’t accept the English documents we have. Getting hotter by the second as I see my vacation ruined by a couple of petty bureaucrats, I manage to get a hold of our insurance agent in Tijuana and arrange for him to send out the requested documents. I waste no time getting out of there before anything else goes wrong, and spend the rest of the afternoon therapeutically getting all the gear ready for tomorrow.
Day 1 – December 3rd The anticipation of too much fun has taken its toll, and after a restless night’s sleep, I’m up at 3:30. Downloading the rest of my data to the tiny Libretto computer, a check of the Internet weather sites indicates my fear of foul weather seems to be unfounded. It looks like we’ll have partly cloudy conditions today, followed by at least a week of good weather. One of my hobbies has been developing a set of Baja road maps using GPS mapping, including waypoint markings for all the intersections on the rural dirt roads. This has earned me another one of my numerous nicknames – "Magellan". Our trip is taking us to an area I haven’t mapped yet, so I’m looking forward to updating my book. Checking the GPS and map book, everything’s ready to go, so I guess there’s nothing left to do but jump in the truck and go meet the guys. During rides past, some of the guys have been a bit reticent in contributing towards the expenses of the chase vehicle. For this trip, I’ve asked everyone to put $100 each into a kitty, from which I’ll purchase our communal supplies (liquor) and fuel for the chase truck. Knowing the self-destructing behavior of most of the guys, I have doubts the fund will last for more than a couple of days – we’ll see. About 4:30, a terrible sound begins up on my roof. The pitter-patter of a passing rainsquall threatens to ruin all my best-laid plans. After a brief shower, the rain settles into a slow drizzle, not good, but tolerable. By 7am, I can’t stand it anymore, and decide to head on out and wait for the guys at our designated meeting spot, the gas station at Los Barriles. Turning the key on my always-reliable Ford truck, I’m rewarded with nothing more than a dull "click". What a hell of a time for the truck to start acting up. Making a mental plea to the god of good fortune, I giggle the key a couple of times before my prayer is answered as the starter finally kicks over. Not wanting to unnecessarily tempt fate, I decide to leave the motor running until we get to our jump-off point.
Arriving at the gas station about 7:20, I’m the first one there. With ominous black clouds overhead, I’m hoping none of the guys have cancelled, but soon everyone rolls in. In trying to collect the $100 tithe from each of the boys, you’d think I was pulling out their fingernails. Les has forgotten his money, so while everyone else loads up all the quads, I drive him home to pick up his cash. By the time we get back, half the group has already headed out to La Paz – so much for a group activity. We’ve got more quad space than people space, so Greg rides with me. Catching the lead vehicles at San Pedro, we caravan to La Paz, where we all gas up and regroup at Ley’s, where the daunting task of purchasing supplies for this group begins. The supply list seems simple, water, coffee, beer, liquor, mixers and snacks. Passing the prepared foods counter, a purchase of a couple buckets of fried chicken should smooth the trip to La Purisima. $300 later, we’re trying to find space to put everything, while Greg mixes up several bags of gorp from all the nuts and dried fruit we bought. On the road again, our journey is interrupted about an hour later as a flat on one of the trailers gives us an excuse for a cocktail stop.
Continuing on, our stomachs provide the next interruption of our trip, causing us to stop at Santa Rita to devour the Ley’s chicken. Eventually getting to Insurgentes, our path is bogged down trying to negotiate acres of mud left from the recent rains. We make our first official fueling stop there, and top off all the vehicles and gas cans. Another flat tire and trip to the llantera later, we’re finally on the last leg north. Our various misadventures have taken their toll on our timetable, and the boys start grumbling as the sun gets low on the horizon about not wanting to ride in the dark (I don’t either). At one of our stops, I suggest we just drive all the rigs to San Juanico and start the ride in the morning. A poll of the group finds everyone likes the idea – another problem solved. Stopping at the turnoff just before getting to La Purisima, we bleed some air out of the tires and continue on the dirt road to Scorpion Bay as the sun takes its daily swim in the Pacific.
The wisdom of our decision to drive in is confirmed, as about 3 miles before reaching our destination, we encounter more muddy roads. I sure wouldn’t have wanted to be riding the quads through this (especially after dark). Rolling into Scorpion Bay as the first stars become visible, we arrange for our accommodations for the night, bamboo cots in palapa huts overlooking the sea. After unloading the rigs, we dine on overcooked shrimp, looking forward to our ride tomorrow.
Day 2 – December 4th
Jerry and I get the day started right with lots of hot coffee at sunrise. One of the things we find is always irritating during these trips is our inability to get fed early. This is the cause for the first of our disagreements, as half the group wants to eat, while the rest want to ride. The resolution for this issue is simple, the riders ride, and the hungry eat. It seems no matter how hard we try, it’s about 9am before we can get started.
Six miles into the ride, Greg catches a sidewall on a sharp rock, our first quad problem. We have a spare bike on the trailer, but are hesitant to call it into service this early in the ride. Instead, we send Greg back to San Juanico for a patch job, while the rest continue onward. Getting to the turnoff which divides the two main roads north, we have a discussion on which way to go. The low road circumvents the beach and salt flats, while the upper road should be drier but rougher going. Most of the riders want to take the high road, while the low road would be easier going for the chase truck. The high road is notorious for an area containing what’s called "moondust", fine silt sometimes 2-3 feet deep. Cars have been known to disappear in it, never to be seen again. However, considering the muddy conditions we’ve encountered so far, we all feel we’ll have even more problems getting through the low road.
While waiting to see if Greg will catch up to us, a truck appears coming down from the high road. The fishermen inside say the high road is passable all the way to Laguna San Ignacio, and our decision seems to be made for us. Wanting to keep going, we paint a sign for Greg, and just as we’re climbing on the quads, there’s a cloud of dust on the horizon. The speck soon turns into Greg, and united for the first time, we travel as a group up the high road. The going is slow, as the trail is badly rutted, but we’re having a great time, as most of us have never been on this road. Regrouping at Rancho El Cuarenta, we start out towards the moondust area. Getting there, we’re pleasantly surprised, as the rains have packed the dust into a passable roadbed. It looks as if we’re going to have smooth sailing, until coming over a rise, there’s a lake of rainwater covering the road from horizon to horizon – we’re going nowhere fast. I try to find a way around this mess, and only manage to coat myself with several inches of mud. Jerry climbs up a nearby hill to look for a path, but finds nothing. Our only hope is to skirt around the edge of the bog, hoping we can find a path solid enough for the chase truck. Ron, Greg and myself take off, and finally make our way around the lake. Greg goes back to bring everyone on through, and gets stuck in the mud taking a shortcut. Ron and I discover a Mexican truck stuck on the other side.
After pulling out the stuck truck, we continue on and regroup at the La Laguna turnoff. We’ve lost about 3 hours getting around the unexpected lake, and now have slim hopes of reaching our goal of Campo Rene before sundown. DC sends me ahead to the El Alamo intersection, where we’re supposed to turn to go around Laguna San Ignacio. When I get there, the resident rancher says the road around isn’t passable. It’s getting late in the day, and as we’re only about 15 miles from San Ignacio, we decide to spend the night there, and will try to find another way through tomorrow. Arriving at our favorite hotel, we negotiate 5 rooms for 10 guys for $13/head. Not bad for a hot shower and soft bed. After last night’s dinner, we’re anxious for some good food, and take a taxi over to Rice & Beans, where we all have a great meal. The taxi never shows up to take us back, so the owner cleans out his van and hauls us all to the hotel.
Day 3 – December 5th
Up at 6 to start coffee, I almost stumble over Cliff, who’s sleeping on the patio. Apparently his roommate for last night (who will remain unnamed), was snoring so loud, Cliff couldn’t sleep. We get organized, and start asking the locals for another road to Punta Abreojos. Our maps show a road following the riverbed, but nobody seems to know where the road entrance is. Finally, we get some good info, and Jerry and I recon the trail. After about 2 miles, we come across a truck coming the other way, and confirm we’re on the right path. Jerry goes back to fetch the others, while Don and I wait to regroup.
Finally after an hour and 20 minutes, we hear the incessant buzzing of a horde of quads coming our way, and we’re off. The going isn’t too bad, as long as we’re watching out for the ever-present mud holes. Following the base of the arroyo, we’re soon faced with a steep climb out of the canyon on a shale-lined trail. Ron and I scout out ahead, and are rewarded with a spectacular view from the top. Here we are in the middle of nowhere, and I almost trip over a cement property marker. The backside is even rougher, and I have doubts the chase truck can get through. Ron goes back to report to the group. Shortly after, I hear the crunching sound of the Suburban going over the rocks, and am surprised to see everyone coming through.
After completing this challenging hill, we’re worried about getting through. In a fateful decision, Greg, Ron and I are sent out to find a way through to the road to Abreojos. After a few miles, a washed out road stops us. Checking further, I found another road leading back to the highway, and send Ron back to report our findings. In the meantime, I try to find a way around the washout, and stumble upon the road we’ve been after all along. After what seems an eternity, I finally hit pavement, the road to Punta Abreojos.
In a decision I know will cost me dearly later, I just can’t bring myself to ride all the way back to the others. Concerned about catching up with Troy (we were supposed to meet him last night, and he’s carrying a new radiator I need), I really want to get to Campo Rene before he decides we’re not coming and takes off. Knowing they have no choice but to follow my tracks, I leave a note, saying I’m pushing on through to Campo Rene. (I found out later everyone waited for me for over an hour). After about a mile the pavement ends, and a washboarded dirt road leads me onward. A few mud holes and about 40 miles later, the sign for Campo Rene appears out of the distance. Campo Rene, about 8 miles outside of Punta Abreojos, sits on the edge of Estero El Coyote, an area renowned for the abundance of shellfish, with countless oysters, clams & scallops inhabiting the shallow waters here.
The entrance road is under a layer of mud and water, and I don’t see any way around. Going for it, I plow on through, hoping to not get stuck. The resulting geyser of water and mud covers me from head to toe. Looking like the Monster from the Black Lagoon, I triumphantly enter Campo Rene, only to find it utterly deserted. I’m not too impressed with what I see, as there’s no water, no power, no caretaker, no nothing.
With nothing to do but wait, I find a chair and start making some notes. A dog appears out of nowhere, and pretty soon the caretaker, Javier, shows up. He’s been out in the estero retrieving some loose kayaks. I let him know the others will be coming, and he says he’ll have the water and power running later. With our camp spot now secured, I decide to go into Punta Abreojos to look for Troy. Following the white painted rocks back to the main road, I find another entrance trail that’s high and dry – things are looking up. Quickly traversing the 8 miles to Abreojos, I stop at the local police station to ask if they’ve seen Troy. Sure enough, he’s been spotted cruising the town earlier in the day. They suggest I check the local beaches for him. A few minutes later, I’m rolling down the local airstrip, and the speck coming at me in the distance soon turns into Troy and his camper. A beer later, we cruise back to the main entrance to Campo Rene, so I can redirect everyone to the dry road.
It’s a small world. While sitting at the entrance, doing our best to reduce Troy’s copious beer supply, a couple of gringos drive by, stopping to see if we need any help. We get to talking, and one of the guys asks if I’m from Los Barriles. Responding yes, he asks if Don is on the ride. Turns out this guy, Wendell, is Don’s best buddy. Shortly thereafter, another truck pulls up, and a couple of uniformed Mexican immigration officers jump out. For a moment we think we’re about to be hassled, until one of them smiles and asks for a beer. Being good ambassadors of better relations between the USA and Mexico, we invite them over, break out more beers, and spend about an hour doing more good than Bush & Fox ever could. One of them wants to ride my quad, and after a brief spin up the road, he comes back with his eyes the size of golf balls. The other one wants a future puppy of Troy’s great dane, Patron. Eventually they have to go, and as they drive off, we’re satisfied we’ve made new friends. We’ve been on station here at the entrance for about two hours, and haven’t seen any of the guys. I’m starting to feel guilty about not going back for everyone, and am starting to worry if they’ve had any problems. Just as I’m about to backtrack to look for them, I spot a quad on the dry road to Rene’s. Somehow everyone arrived before Troy and I got here, and our vigil has been for naught. Rolling into camp, I start to feel a bit like Osama Bin Laden at a Veteran of Foreign Wars meeting. No one will even look at me, much less talk to me. Whispers of a lynching are in the air. I find an empty cottage with a single cot, so nobody will be guilty by association with me, and quietly unpack my stuff. Coming back out, there’s an ominous sign awaiting me, a noose with my note attached to it.
Fortunately, most of the guys are more interested in partying than in Roy-bashing, so I slip my way right in and no one seems to mind. Troy has brought down a cooler full of food, and Chef Mike soon goes to work, with everyone feeling better after a splendid meal of steak and chicken. With the boys sated, I’m beginning to think they’ve forgotten about my transgression, but my hopes are dashed as the cry of "Trial – Trial – Trial" permeates the still night. I am to be put on trial for desertion. DC, "El Rey Pelon", has been named the judge in the matter, and Ron has self-appointed himself my defense counsel. Knowing that not even Johnny Cochran can get me off on this one, I immediately fire Ron (to preserve his perfect record). Knowing that any excuses will only make things worse, I ask to address the court (despite Ron’s protest). With the most contrite expression I can muster, I loudly plead, "Guilty on all counts, Your Honor – do with me as you wish!" Momentarily stunned into silence by my sudden admission of guilt (I think they were all expecting excuses), the jury finally breaks into an out roar, with half the guys yelling, "Hang ‘m, Hang ‘m", while the rest are satisfied with my confession. The debate rages on for the rest of the evening, and sometime before all the rum has been consumed and everyone passes out, my sentence has been forgotten.
Day 4 – December 6th As usual, Jerry & I are up early to get the coffee started. We’ve decided today will be a layover day, with no riding planned except for local exploring. With no schedule to follow, a leisurely breakfast is in order. Troy comes to our rescue (again), as he breaks out a hoard of eggs and sausages. Greg volunteers to cook, and another great meal is spread out before us.
Most of us decide to go to town for supplies, while DC and the dogs go exploring north. Cliff’s quad won’t run, and everyone volunteers his expert opinion on what’s wrong. An adjustment to the intake valve later, and we’re on our way.Punta Abreojos, a community of about 1,000 persons (& 10 million dogs), has survived in this harsh desert environment for decades, primarily on commercial fishing and shellfishing. A desalination plant, producing about 5,000 gallons of fresh water daily, provides the town’s water supply. A local generator provides power. A lighthouse on the edge of town marks the entrance to Laguna San Ignacio.
On the way in, a strange rattling sound from my quad has me concerned. Stopping in town for much needed supplies (more coffee), a thorough inspection reveals a loose skidplate. The noise is driving me nuts, so while the others check out the beach for washed-up treasure, Troy and I cruise back to Rene’s to replace the lost bolts causing the infernal racket.
Day 5 – December 7th Getting an early start today is important, as we figure our destination, Bahia Tortugas, is about 140 miles away. On the road early, the chilled morning air causes us to bundle up. As penance for my misdeeds, I’ve been delegated to ride behind the chase truck. To get things moving, we skip breakfast at camp and decide to stop at La Bocana for eats, about a 40-minute ride. Once there, we find no place to eat, so we grab some pastries from a local store and continue to the next town, San Hipolito.
We’ve had reports that the road ahead is extremely washboarded, so we’re ecstatic when we’re told the road grader passed through this way only last week. And the road ahead is in great shape, so we have a pleasant ride, enjoying the desolate splendor of the Viscaino Desert.
Somehow, we’ve missed the turn off to San Hipolito, so we decide to continue on to Bahia Asuncion to resupply and eat. Once there, an executive decision is made, and the group wants me to continue to buy our supplies and gas, so I solicit another $100 contribution from each (no easy task). Don has a flat on his quad, so we buy supplies while he’s getting it fixed. Properly restocked, we finish off a nearly perfect morning with a bacon & egg breakfast at a little mom & pop café.
Leaving Asuncion, the road turns bad, as we take the shortcut road to Tortugas. Mile after mile of washboard is taking its toll on our butts, and we stop for cocktails at the turnoff to Puerto Nuevo, an isolated fish camp on the coast. Further on, we get our first mechanical breakdown, as Don throws the chain, providing us another excuse for a stop and refreshments. Rounding a bend in the road, the main Viscaino-Bahia Tortugas road snaps into view. Regrouping at the intersection with the main road, DC and I get into an argument over where we are. I recheck my figures, and he’s correct. Offering my profound apologies, which I’m sure has been the high point of the trip for DC, we jump on the main road and cruise the last 26 miles into Bahia Tortugas.
I roll in first to Tortugas at about 4pm. The first thing I notice is the diesel hum of the town’s generator, pumping out life-giving electricity. The new Pemex station on the edge of town is still closed, but we’re confident the old station near the town square will be open. After we regroup, the quads cruise the town, looking for accommodations. The first hotel we stop at doesn’t have enough rooms, so we continue looking, eventually winding up at Nancy’s. Negotiating rooms for $14/head, we did all right. After settling in, the owner’s son agrees to do laundry for the group. In the meantime, the owner shows us his collection of bones and artifacts he’s collected over the years from Playa Malarrimo. The collection is amazing, including the huge lower jawbone of a blue whale, which was close to 20 feet long – we could only imagine the size of the leviathan the bone came from. Cruising down to the waterfront, I am rewarded with a spectacular view of the bay.
Some of the guys are insistent about having lobster for dinner, despite the fact we’re told it’s the wrong time of year. But the owner graciously calls around the city’s eateries, and soon finds one that says they have lobster. With the owner’s 5-yr old son showing us the way, we all march towards the designated restaurant. Once inside, there’s plenty of room and cold beer, but our jaws drop to the floor in unison as we’re quoted $20 for a lobster dinner, when everything else on the menu is about $7. The pricey lobster changes most of our minds, but there are two of us who, unfortunately, want lobster no matter what the cost. The wiser of us inquire what the restaurateur recommends, and he highly suggests the scallops. When dinner arrives, it’s a terrible joke. The two lobster dinners are tiny and overcooked, with about three bites of edible meat on each plate. The rest of the dinners are adequate, and the two guys who ordered the scallops were absolutely delighted with their meals. There is an important lesson here – when dining in unfamiliar territory, always order what the waiter recommends!
Day 6 – December 8th Our original plan was to spend two nights here in Tortugas, using it as a base camp to explore the area. However, after yesterday’s exposition of the owner’s collection, everyone’s excited about going to Malarrimo and spending the night there. The morning begins with what I call "Sock Wars". It seems most everyone was wearing Costco socks this trip, and no one is able to sort out whose socks are whose. Here we are, a bunch of guys willing to go to the end of the world for each other, and we’re about to have fisticuffs over some stupid socks. Finally, calmer heads prevail, and we get packed and on the road. Power has gone out during the night. I suspect this is a fairly common occurrence, as I’ve noticed every business has either candles or propane lanterns at the ready. The old Pemex station is no different. Seeing us drive up, the attendant fires off his portable generator to run the pumps for us. Fueling up, we stop for supplies, when Troy seizes a golden opportunity. His truck is encrusted with nearly a week’s worth of Baja mud and grime. He spots the local water truck cleaning the insulators on the power system, and asks for a quick mobile wash. The Mexicans are happy to oblige, and soon Troy’s ride is clean as a whistle.
Backtracking the main road, we pass numerous tracks before getting to the one we hope will lead us to Malarrimo. Finally resorting to the GPS, it says we’re at the right turnoff. Tentatively starting up the track, we immediately run into a couple of Mexican trucks coming our way. They indicate we’re on the right road, so off we go into the vastness. About 15 miles later, we regroup as we reach the bluff above the Pacific Ocean.
Reaching the last of the fish camps, this is where the road ends on all our maps. But we find the track continues onward towards Malarrimo. Arriving at the south end of this famous stretch of beach, we find the road makes a sharp turn inland, and looks well traveled. We make the turn, knowing that the beach is impassable, except at low tide. We find another turnoff heading towards the beach, and following the tracks leads us to an arroyo that empties out right in the middle of Playa Malarrimo. Deciding to set up camp at a bend with plenty of protection from the on-shore winds, we’ve reached today’s destination. While the others set up camp, I take on a quest to redeem myself, and start a search to reach the next arroyo, from which we can get back to the main road. Going back to the straight road, I hang left and go about 5 miles before finding the Malarrimo canyon road. Going out this way will save us 60 miles of backtracking. Not sure if anyone will believe me, I take a picture to prove it. Reporting back at camp, the place is decorated with everyone’s clothes hanging off all the trees. The clothes never dried last night, and all had packed wet clothes this morning.
It’s time to check out the beach, and a quick run down the arroyo brings us to the mouth. In all honesty, we all are a bit disappointed with the beach, with dull, gray sand covering a layer of cobblestones. Whenever we view a collection of the flotsam from here, we don’t think about the countless tons of plain trash one has to sort through to obtain even one prize. It’s obvious that the locals have been picking the place clean on a regular basis, as we find nothing of value. Of note, Troy has found a giant redwood trunk, and a count of the rings reveals it is 315 years old.
Back at camp, Mike has worked his magic again, with an epicurean delight of burritos made with Spam, cheese and canned chili. Cordon Bleu cooking never tasted this good. The rest of the evening is spent around the campfire, with everyone exchanging girlfriend horror stories.
Day 7 – December 9th Dawn arrives with the need for vast amounts of coffee, and Jerry has it covered. We decide to try to reach the road overland, as it will be shorter than the route I found yesterday. Going up the arroyo as far as we can, we send Jerry & Greg on ahead to scout a trail. While we’re waiting, the largest coyote I’ve ever seen lops into view. Troy’s great dane, Patron, gets a whiff of the coyote and is after him like he was shot out of a cannon. He’s almost on top of the wild canine before he’s noticed. The scene is almost like out of the Roadrunner Show, with Wiley E. Coyote off through the scrub brush with his feet barely touching the ground, and Patron in hot pursuit. Eventually the big dog loses interest and comes trotting back to camp, just as Jerry and Greg return. They’ve found a way, and we all follow them through the desert, coming out on the Malarrimo road about a half-mile from the spot I found.
The next two hours are spent going through some of the most difficult roads ever marked on a map of the area. However, the scenery is spectacular, and we stop several times just to watch the view, drink beer, and enjoy our breakfast of ham sandwiches.
At about noon, we finally reach the main Bahia Tortugas – Viscaino road. From here on it’s going to be smooth sailing. Making the run east to the Bahia Asuncion intersection at high speed, we pass by Scammon’s Lagoon on our left. We regroup and wait for an eternity for Ron to reach us; he’s riding a little Honda Recon, with only 229cc. He just can’t keep up with our larger quads on these long straight stretches. At the turn to Asuncion, we all say goodbye to Troy. He’s continuing up to the highway for the run back to San Diego. Thanks for everything, Troy. We couldn’t have made it without you.
The main road back to Bahia Asuncion is a freeway, and we enjoy the ability to cover lots of ground quickly. Our experience has been we’ve done a much better job of feeding ourselves than relying on the local eateries, so we decide to push all the way back to Campo Rene, stopping in Asuncion to buy chicken and supplies for another one of Mike’s Miracles. Continuing south, we reach the turnoff for Punta Prieta and San Hipolito. Wanting to check it out, we take the detour and pass through these quaint fishing villages.
Rejoining the main road, Greg goes on ahead to get to Campo Rene and start the fire for dinner, as it will be close to dark before the pack will get there. After a gas stop, I decide to let my Raptor’s 660cc motor loose, and try to catch up with Greg. Just before passing Punta Abreojos, I catch him, and we ride together the rest of the way to Rene’s. Hot showers and cold beers later, bbq chicken and roasted potatoes were gobbled up with gusto. Sometimes I think we eat better at these annual trips than we do at home. A brilliant twilight and the splashing of fish in the estero complement our dinner.
Day 8 – Dec. 10th Today we’re winging it, not sure if we can make it through the El Alamo shortcut to get all the way back to San Juanico. Otherwise, we’ll make another stop at San Ignacio for the night. It’s a monotonous run back towards the highway to our cutoff. We thought it was about 30 miles, but in actuality it’s closer to 40 miles. At our turn, we’re only a few hundred yards from the north end of Laguna San Ignacio.
Back at the spot of my previous crime, we start backtracking towards San Ignacio. The trail is dryer than before, so we have fewer mud holes to dodge. Leading the group while looking for the El Alamo road, I make a wrong turn and almost ride right off a cliff. Reminding myself to be more careful, I resort to the GPS to locate the cutoff. Right where the map and GPS say it should be, there’s a faint trail heading in the right direction. It’s apparent this road has been abandoned, so we make the decision to continue to San Ignacio instead. A couple of miles ahead, the boys have found an abandoned rancho, so we stop and investigate.
Continuing on, we need to deal with the shale hill we had problems with earlier. Jerry found another way around last time, so he leads us on through – much better way for the truck. At our next stop, Jerry’s got a flat. A can of Seal-n-Air later, and we’re on the road again.
Soon we’re back in San Ignacio, and decide to try a different hotel, so we top off on fuel and check out a well-known newer motel (no names to protect the guilty). Figuring we can negotiate a group rate, we’re astounded when the clerk quotes us $50/room, when we know the going rate is $40/room. As we’re indignantly leaving, he chases us down and offers us the $40 rate, but he’s already lost us. We decide to go to our tried-and-true older motel, and are pleased to find out there’s enough room for us, and check in at a $25/room rate. No cooking tonight, so we walk on over to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Being wiser for our earlier dining experiences, we heed the owner’s advice when he suggests we have the fish or scallops. We’re not disappointed, as it’s a fabulous meal. Back to the motel and dream-time.
Day 9 – December 11th Again, coffee on the patio starts the day. It’s our last day, and we’re really curious to see if the low road back to San Juanico is dry enough to pass, or will we need to use the upper road again. None of us want to go through the dried-out moondust. None of the little cafes are open early enough for us, so it’s pastries from the store next to the Pemex station for breakfast. Caravanning out of town, we make good time towards La Laguna. Cruising through the backcountry, we pass several small ranchos, soon passing a small church serving the area.
Regrouping at La Laguna, it’s obvious we can’t get through the low road, so we continue onward. A few miles later, we come across a fork in the road, and we’re hoping the right fork might be a way to avoid the moondust of the upper road. Jerry and I recon the road ahead, and about 4 miles later we come out on a well-used road heading in the right direction. Jerry suggests he goes back and bring everyone, but I tell him if I don’t go, there’ll be hell to pay. Returning together, we round everyone up and head on down the new road. My GPS shows we’re between the two roads, and the going is great.
This is great – we’ve found an unmapped road that bypasses both the moondust and the muddy salt flats, an unexpected bonus. The new road ends right at the Datil fish camp. Stopping there, the boys seize on an opportunity to buy some fresh lobster. This simple act is going to provide great entertainment later this evening. The last stretch is a bit anticlimactic. We roll on in to San Juanico about 3:20 in the afternoon. By the time we get packed up, it’s getting late, so we decide to spend the night here and leave early in the morning.
The fickle starter on my truck has been in the back of my mind the whole trip. I’ll feel a whole lot better knowing its working, and I hold my breath as I turn the key – "Click, Click, Click" is the reply, not good. As I’m envisioning trying to get a Ford mechanic here from over 100 miles away, I ask Don to check it out. The fuses are fine, the solenoid is fine, and it’s a mystery. He checks underneath, and utters the words that are music to my ears, "I found the problem!" One of the hot wires had popped off its connector. A quick reconnect solved the problem and clears the cloud that has been gathering around my head. Feeling a whole lot better, my disposition improves even further after a hot shower. Gathering for dinner, we all remember the overcooked shrimp dinner we had on the first night, and all order the giant burrito. When the gargantuan plates of food are brought out, we know immediately we made the right choice. There is not a better $6 meal in all of Baja. As our stomachs start to stretch, the table conversation turns to the lobster we purchased earlier, and we witness the birth of what I call "Lobster Wars". There was some confusion on who put in money to buy them in the first place, now there are about a half-dozen normally intelligent, levelheaded men arguing like children over some silly lobsters. It’s a miracle we’ve made it through 9 days without killing each other. At some point before bedtime, everyone works out who gets what, and things are back on an even keel.
Day 10 – Dec. 12th With nothing to do today but drive home, there’s no hurry this morning. After chorizo and eggs, we roll out of Scorpion Bay. I’ve got a low tire, so we stop at the local llantera to check it out. The mechanic quickly spots a 16-penny nail deeply imbedded in the tread, so I wave everyone else ahead and wait to have the tire fixed. Obviously he’s done this a million times, as he quickly dismounts and patches the tire. At this point, there’s nothing left to do but drive home and savor the memories.
The Final Tally
Over the course of the 9 days we rode, we covered 790 miles on the quads during 28 hours 44 minutes of riding time, averaging 28.4mph. We spent $2,980 for 10 guys, or about $33/day/person for food, refreshmentsand lodging. Between the rigs and the quads we had a total of 7 flats, none of which impacted our ride. No mechanical breakdowns that we couldn’t fix on the spot, and nobody got hurt. Not bad for a bunch old guys. I hope you’ve enjoyed the story. Roy "Sr. Divertido / Magellan" Baldwin firstname.lastname@example.org December 12, 2002 PS – my faith in karma is renewed. In an act of poetic justice, the radiator that I blew everyone off for turned out to be the wrong one. There is a lesson here.
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